The following letter was published in this week’s issue of the Gazette.
To the editor:
Even as the projected cost rose from $300,000 to over $1 million, nobody really thought the Croton Point Avenue (CPA) project was going to come in cheap. Outside the walls of the Municipal Building, realistic talk in Croton was that this was going to cost $3 to $5 million.
The $2.9 million low bid indicates that our Croton politicians and municipal officials were snookering us once again. Assuming even a modest 10 percent overage brings us to $3.2 million, and adding in the $600k already spent gives a figure of $3.8 million. That means that with a few “change orders” and an unforeseen obstacle or two, the CPA project is going to be over $4 million.
Even by the standards of our free-spending Board of Trustees, that’s decent money.
It is time to revisit the necessity of this project. The prime issue that initiated this was a claim that rush hour traffic to the train station was too slow, and that traffic was backing up onto Route 9. The “solution” is supposed to be the installation of 2 more stoplights. While it is true that there is a bunching of commuters catching the 4 express trains between 7:15 and 7:45, that hardly seems reason to spend millions of dollars. In addition, driving through Briarcliff along 9A in the morning demonstrates that that stop lights themselves can create bottlenecks.
Much has been said about the narrowing of vehicle lanes to accommodate two new bicycle lanes. Croton is a hilly village which is cold for much of the year, so there are not a lot of bicycle-riding commuters.
We were told by our politicians that CPA was a “gateway” and while I can appreciate that having empty bicycle lanes is going to impress passing motorists with Croton’s commitment to going green, I think they will change their impression once they make a left at the top of CPA and pass by 3 gas stations lined up along Riverside.
The sidewalk along the north side of CPA is more than adequate for the few commuters who walk from Harmon. And the north side is safer for pedestrians than the south side, particularly opposite Giovanni’s. It is true that installing a sidewalk on the south side of CPA makes walking to ShopRite easier, but I doubt that there will be any upsurge in people walking from the train station to ShopRite.
The last significant part of the project is to change CPA from concrete to blacktop. The existing roadway was expensive to install but lasts much longer and hence is economically the best choice. Our Board of Trustees will be paving that over with blacktop, and then we will be paying every spring to fix the potholes and paying every few years to mill and repave CPA.
We have a pattern in Croton. Our politicians get a fixation, deceive us as to the cost, and after the damage is done the Board of Trustees is on to their next harebrained scheme. Croton taxpayers are left holding the bag.
Years ago, CPA was pitched with a claim that this would not cost Croton taxpayers much money. That was false, but the other part of that claim was also troubling. Our politicians told us that Albany and Washington would pick up most of the tab, and so we should race to grab the money. Belief that other people would get stuck paying for Croton’s profligacy resulted in glossing over the question as to whether the CPA project was necessary. We should pause to consider the broader civic consequences of our original greediness that led us to not be concerned about fiscal waste so long as the consequences were borne by taxpayers in other parts of the country.
The CPA debacle is just another repetitive chapter in the same book. Much as we premised CPA on grandiose plans paid for by other people, we are right now cleaning up (at a cost of over $1million) the Gouveia mess which was premised on grand plans and talk of a Gouveia 501(c) getting grant money from Albany and Washington, plus gate revenue from lawn concerts and poetry readings. And of course the massive (and costly) expansion of Croton government office space to accommodate the DPW, Recreation Department, and the police is a story in itself.
We live in a state with the highest tax burden in the nation, in a county with the highest property tax burden in the nation, and a village which has burdened its residents with one of the highest debt levels in the state.
At some point, this is going to become unsustainable. Our Board of Trustees and Village Manager need to stop regarding Croton as a real-life SimCity funded by Monopoly money. They could start by rethinking the CPA project.